February Blind Spot Review: Sixteen Candles (1984)

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“That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call ’em something else.”
– Jim Baker

SYNOPSIS: A girl’s “sweet” sixteenth birthday becomes anything but special, as she suffers from every embarrassment possible. – via IMDB

Alright, so we know that John Hughes is like super popular and all these things, and I have watched some but not all of his movies. I love The Breakfast Club while I completely loathe Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so I was figured I should check out another one of his movies that I have heard so much about but never actually watched. Now I have. And, well… okay.

I wasn’t a fan of this. I didn’t hate it, and it had moments, and let me tell you, having your family forget your sixteenth seriously blows (true story, I actually know this feeling). Hughes captured the complete teenage-ness of Samantha and her life, and I think Molly Ringwald was totally the right choice to play sullen, sulky Samantha.

I have always heard a lot of bitching about a rapey angle of this between Jake and the Geek and Caroline, and let me tell you, now that I have watched it, I get it. That arc was so not cool. Basically like giving the girl away like she was a commodity, not caring what happened, all that. I don’t want to get into it too much, but just know that the whole situation was just not cool man. ICK.

John Cusack is adorable, as always, and I could totally have done with more of him. In fact, the most entertainment for me came from the interactions between Bryce, Cliff, and the Geek, even if at times they were a touch inappropriate. Then there was the silly but fun story line of Long Duk Dong. What an unexpectedly crazy character to make his way into this.

Anyway, I thought that Sixteen Candles to be an alright watch, maybe not the best of all time, but it wasn’t bad. There were aspects that I liked and aspects that I didn’t, and while it won’t be something I will be checking out again (probably), I don’t regret having ticked it off my watch list.

Review: The Notebook (2004)

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“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”
– Noah

SYNOPSIS: A poor yet passionate young man falls in love with a rich young woman, giving her a sense of freedom, but they are soon separated because of their social differences. – via IMDB

So I recently decided to give this movie another squizz, haven’t seen it since it came out pretty much, and I liked it well enough then. So I popped in the soppy romance and got watching, and for the most part, this is a pretty good romance (but seriously, OTT soppy, just putting it out there).

Like, I would love to just come here and be like “Ryan. Gosling.” and leave it at that, but I suppose I can say a few more things about it.

I much preferred watching the scenes between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams than the older couple – they had great chemistry and are just too beautiful to look at. The scenes between an old Allie and Noah are supposed to pack a bigger punch, but for me their scenes just felt a little off, and I am not sure why. They just didn’t flow as well as the scenes from earlier, though the message is still crystal clear.

The romance between Allie and Noah is not at all unheard of, but it is really nice to sit and watch them together. They have so little in common in a lot of ways, yet they work. They bring out the best and the worst in each other, but they love each other passionately, that cannot be denied. Watching Allie’s parents and their treatment of both their daughter and especially Noah makes me mad. So what if he is not rich? I am not saying this as a romantic or anything like that, but happiness really is about more than money (though let’s not even pretend that money can’t help you on the road to some happiness). Classism was definitely an issue in their relationship, but only on the outside. I burned with embarrassment to watch Noah have lunch at Allie’s family and be treated the way that he was, because that lacks class, and yet Allie is accepted with open arms in the “poor” house and not judged. Okay getting off this boat now.

I believe that Ryan Gosling was cast in this because he was relatively unknown (will give them that) and “not handsome”. Seriously, someone should have gotten their freaking eyes checked before they went that route. Dafuq? Most women see eye to eye with me on this one. I also had a good laugh watching this and thinking “pre Photoshop”. Man, Gosling really is gorgeous. But this is not a post all gushing about Gosling. But for the record, we love Gosling.

I am not really a fan of James Marsden (Cyclops, really), but man oh man, he is so good here, and I really liked him and found him to to be super sweet. Allie really did know how to pick them.

Ryan. Gosling. Really, that is all.

For what it is, The Notebook is a decent movie. Soppy as hell, but it’s a pretty decent watch. I definitely feel that my views on the movie have changed a lot more since I watched it when it first came out, when I was a young rugrat starting high school with no real concept of a relationship. The story has stuck with me since then, the main part of it, at any rate. I think this is definitely more in the chick flick category though!

Blind Spot Series 2017 Rankings

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So, another year gone, another twelve movies crossed off of my Blind Spot list. For the most part, I had particularly good movies this year. For the most part…

Anyway, as always, I decided to rank them all here.

12. Deliverance (1972)

Well. This. Fuck this movie. I will say it again, fuck this movie. Yep, totally hated it. I am sure you all remember the Shitfest-worthy meltdown I had about this. If you don’t, you are more than welcome to head on back to the review linked above to see how I raged. Ugh…

11. Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

Certainly not an underrated gem as I was led to believe, I was so amped to finally watch this gangster movie and was totally let down by it. What a waste of nearly four hours of my life!

10. Cronos (1993)

While I am always up for Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish works, this one was not nearly as great as I was hoping it would be. It was not a bad movie by a long shot, but it does not stand equal to The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth.

9. The Road (2009)

Dark, depressing, apocalyptic, The Road definitely paints a super depressing, far more realistic apocalyptic future than these movies usually portray. Viggo Mortensen is exellent, and Kodi Smit-McPhee also holds his own in the bleak movie. Worth the watch!

8. Say Anything (1989)

So pleased to have seen this –  it is one of those movies that is referenced all over the show, and I have never really known how it all fit in. Man, Lloyd Dobler is absolutely adorable and the boombox over the head scene finally makes sense now. Say Anything is sweet, but not to soppy your stomach churns. Enjoyed this one!

7. The Help (2011)

Okay, so right off the bat, this is not unpredictable, but that doesn’t make it bad. The Help is rather formulaic, and shies away from some of the sick history it is steeped in, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t find other ways to run home the story. There are terribly sad moments, moments that will make you mad, and some great sections with some fantastic humour, and the movie has heart. The cast, too, definitely sold this one.

6. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, but I really liked this one. I thought it was funny and shot really well and rather strange, but it all worked. I would like to rewatch it and see if it holds up as well. I must admit, this is where I finally understood Tom Hiddleston’s appeal to the world – before he was just a decent actor. After this? Impressed. Plus I liked the humour in this. So deadpan. Swinton and Hiddleston make this a treat.

5. The Orphanage (2007)

Another one of those cult classic type movies I have vowed for years to get to and just never did, 2017 was the year that changed. The Orphanage is haunting, sad, beautiful and creepy, and has a solid story as a strong psychological aspect to it, making it a movie that gets under your skin and lingers long after, not just a typical, generic horror movie at all.

4. JFK (1991)

Conspiracy theories galore! Naturally this was totally going to be my cup of tea, and it totally was. There were some solid performances and I was particularly interested in how Stone would set out his case for JFK’s assassination. While I feel that it was heavy handed in forcing his interpretation of events down the viewer’s throat, if you watch this as a theory and not as the gospel of the answers to JFK’s assassination, you are in for a good time. Great starting point for those not too familiar with the intricacies of the infamous case.

3. City of God (2002)

I can see why this movie is so popular – it is so not an easy watch, but it is engaging, gritty, violent, realistic, and truly gets you thinking. It tells a super solid story and it draws you in, getting you invested in some characters from this nasty slum. It is depressing and yet completely enthralling, something I can see myself revisiting.

2. Rear Window (1954)

James Stewart man, what an actor. The man is amazing, and with Grace Kelly at his side, the duo was bound to impress. Hitchcock, too, weaves a tense one-room story, which is carried and fleshed out completely by a talented cast. The tension is palpable, the story is smart and engaging, and the pacing is just right. Rear Window is a well-crafted movie and definitely worth the time.

1. Atonement (2007)

Ah, Atonement. Where do we even start? My goodness, what a watch. While it is not completely perfect or shocking, and it is predictable in places, it is handled so well and is shot brilliantly – truly, what beautiful shots. James McAvoy is absolutely perfect here, sweeping us all up so completely in Robbie. Keira Knightley, too,  managed to not work on my last nerve. The two work together well, and Atonement tells one hell of a story, a journey I both loved and resented in equal measure. I thought it was told so well, and some details were handled with such aplomb. What a movie, though certainly not a light, easy watch.

Review: The Collector – Nora Roberts

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SYNOPSIS: When professional house-sitter Lila Emerson witnesses a murder/suicide from her current apartment-sitting job, life as she knows it takes a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one. . . .

Artist Ashton Archer knows his brother isn’t capable of violence—against himself or others. He recruits Lila, the only eyewitness, to help him uncover what happened. Ash longs to paint her as intensely as he hungers to touch her. But their investigation draws them into a rarified circle where priceless antiques are bought, sold, gambled away, and stolen, where what you possess is who you are, and where what you desire becomes a deadly obsession. . .  – via Goodreads

Psssssssh, let’s talk about The Collector. This is hands down one of the most forgettable books I have ever read. In my life. If you need further proof, Natasha (who has read damn near all of Nora Roberts’s work and remembers 99% of it) cannot for her life recall having read this, even though she freaking reviewed it! This has been a source of amusement for us for quite some time now.

Okay, now moving along from the best part of this book (which is having a real laugh with my bestie about how ridiculously forgettable this read is), there is nothing else to really redeem it. Seriously, it is not like you pick up a Roberts novel expecting a super thrill or to find the meaning of life, they are good for light entertainment, but this book is so lazy it is unforgivable. I promise you, the plot if beyond preposterous, the writing is just messy, let’s not forget the array of generic, bland characters crammed into the book, and ultimately a super lacklustre romance makes for a bland read. I think when I saw the title, I was thinking blood and guts and bone and gore. Probably because I read The Bone Collector shortly before this one, possibly also because I read too much icky stuff to think like an art collector :/ Judge me, whatever.

Bland, and frustrating at times. My biggest frustration is, of course, Lila, our main peanut. For one, she is grating. Really. She just irritated me, and then there is Ash, who is just as frustrating, and when they get together, it is super trying on the soul. Consent, as always, is an issue here. He snaps his fingers, she must obey. He wants, he gets. Yap, yap, yap. The men are always such control freaks in Nora Roberts’s books, and it is not sexy. It also annoys me how the women are always “strong and independent” until a man rolls up and then suddenly she is a damsel. Something that really worked on my last nerve is that Ash has a troubled relationship with his father. That is between them. Instead, when his father is being a real piece of work and Ash has calmly decided it is up to his father to be nice or piss off, that nuisance Lila speaks up and condemns Ash for his decision. People that get all involved in family drama they know nothing about and judge harshly should just shut the fuck up. What do you even really know about the situation?

Another thing that made me cringe is Lila’s constant obsession with money. She was so vocal about it, and it was awkward. Like shut up! I don’t want to read about those things, because it came across as embarrassing/preachy, instead of a fact of the character. Argh. Also a pity how much Russian history could have been worked with here and been so much more thrilling, but it wasn’t. I suppose one thing to be happy about is that this luckily is not one of Roberts’s fuck fest novels, so there is that.

The Collector is a wasted affair, and so lacklustre and empty. It feels like a filler and reads like one, too. It also really, truly won’t stay with you after the fact, and the sloppy, generic writing is an awful flaw here. At least it is a quick read…

Review: The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004)

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“Love does things for reasons that reason cannot understand.” 
– Joe

SYNOPSIS: Now settled in Genovia, Princess Mia faces a new revelation: she is being primed for an arranged marriage to an English suitor. – via IMDB

Oh. My. Goodness. This movie sucked. Really Ugh. I watched this directly after The Princess Diaries, and was still basking in the glow of nostalgia. This certainly snuffed that light right out. Sequels are not usually known to be particularly good or anything like that, but this? Unforgivable on so many levels!

Where to begin? Oh right, the first thing to be said is that there is some horrible CGI featured here. Luckily the movie is not too dependent on that, so we are not tortured too often. Zipping right along, the movie just discards Michael and Mia, a super sweet romance that was set up in the first movie, and it is glibly dismissed here. Come on. Anything more than “he’s touring with his band” would have been better. Then her dropping the line of “I’ve never been in love”? So you weren’t even that annoying teenager in love with him? Because that is not what it seemed like in the last movie. Let me leave these gripes and move on the the rest of the treasure trove.

Royal Engagement is simply embarrassing, really. After all the fun and entertainment we got from the first one, you would hope that this could at least be halfway decent. Even with the same cast, it is not. It is lame, flat, uninspired. The humour was so forced and stupid and the delivery is terrible, which is unforgivable. The romance story here is so generic and predictable. It brought no excitement to the table whatsoever. The entire movie is actually so formulaic. The predecessor might not have been a movie that broke any moulds, but at least it was fun. This was just awkward and silly and I was not pleased one step of the way.

This movie, sadly, also somehow manages to take itself way too seriously, which truly only hurts the experience even more. Royal Engagement is annoying, goes for cheap, cheesy tricks, and they never really land true. The story doesn’t engage you (yes, I did that), and there is nothing that makes you feel that this could be some special, treasured childhood movie. Rewatching this was a stark reminder as to why it got exactly one viewing from me when I was younger. One of the few things that work for this is the cast – Pine, Rhys-Davies, Andrews, Hathaway and Elizondo give it what they’ve got. They were quite good, even with the abysmal material, but could still not save this train wreck of a movie. Pine and Hathaway worked very well together, it’s just a pity that this is what they had to work with. This movie is so bad it can’t even be guilty pleasure bad.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is a colossal waste of your precious time and energy.  It is a prime example of how not to do a sequel. There is virtually nothing to praise in this (they even managed to throw a spanner in the works between Joe and Clarisse – not okay) and I spent near two hours cringing and annoyed. You could totally pretend this one does not exist and just acknowledge the first one. Seriously.

February Blind Spot Review: Atonement (2007)

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atonement-poster

“I don’t know how I could’ve been so ignorant about myself… so… so stupid. And you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You knew before I did.”
– Cecilia Tallis

SYNOPSIS: Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a thirteen-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit. – via IMDB

atonement-the-library

GRADE 8.5I have been meaning to watch Atonement for years, and for all sorts of reasons, I never got to it, hence I thought it would be a great addition to my 2017 Blind Spot list. Man, oh man, this movie. My heart! Goodness, there is so much to talk about it, so I suppose I best order my thoughts and try to convey what I felt about this in some form of coherent review. That, and a gif overload. I can’t help it, the movie was beautiful to look at.

James McAvoy is an actor I would watch in anything, and not just for science. The man is ridiculously talented, and this was just another example of how phenomenal he is when he sets his mind to something. I was so taken with his character Robbie. I adored him. I mean wow. Then, opposite him, is Keira Knightley. She is one of those actresses that irrationally annoy the crap out of me (again, thanks for that one Abbi). I don’t know – she’s not a bad actress, but she grates on my last nerve every single time, without fail. Not in Atonement. In fact, I thought she was very well suited to the role.  Knightley and McAvoy have great chemistry and fit together really well, and you are drawn in from the off to see if class was going to be set aside for them to be together. Just watching them was an experience on its own!

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The rest of the cast was incredibly good, too. Saoirse Ronan was excellent as the young Briony Tallis, and demonstrated that even as a young actress, she is a gifted, capable performer. I thought her subsequent counterparts to depict her while ageing were great, as both Ramola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave convincingly looked like her. Benedict Cumberbatch, another actor I adore, made my stomach turn completely here. I mean ick, ick, ick. I knew he was up to no good, but holy crapsticks, you nasty, despicable man! I found it pretty creepy that Juno Temple again played a character that got some nasties done to her by an older man (hem hem Killer Joe).

Anyway, Atonement was truly a heartbreaking story. I felt like the entire world was dark and doomed by the end of it, but I liked it. It was a bit predictable – I wasn’t ever actually shocked, but I was so invested in the outcome, even when I knew how it was supposed to go. That being said, it still had moments to shock you endlessly. The pacing is great because it gets you, and it gets you quickly. Then this story unfolds, flicking between the observations of a child who does not understand what she is seeing, to the actual events taking place. The difference between the two is amazing, and was used perfectly to point out that you don’t always know what you are looking at, and shouldn’t  jump to conclusions.

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I thought that visually, the movie was simply stunning. My word, it was shot well, and was a feast for the eyes, pretty much from the opening scene. So many things came together, and besides the performances and score, you could not overlook the specific shots that came together throughout the movie. There were so many scenes that captured such beauty, but I will just show a few here.

Let’s start with Robbie in the flower fields, it was so peaceful and serene.

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There was the scene with the water bursting into the tunnels, with everything breaking and the newspaper flying out.

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I was particularly fond of the ferris wheel. Everything about this scene just worked, especially with the sun shining through, the bandstand with the soldiers singing, and the smoke rising in the background. So much just came together to give us this.

atonement-ferris-wheel-smaller

Another aspect that just worked was the score. The music set the tone, it did, and I particularly enjoyed the sound of the typewriter keys thwacking away being used to create a score, too. It was original, and so suited for the movie. It was great.

Anyway, as I am sure you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Atonement, and did not feel that the predictability of it hurt it at all. A visual feast to behold, with a love story that will make your heart ache and amazing chemistry between Robbie and Cecilia, I would wholeheartedly recommend this movie. Just know that it is a heavy watch, but worth every moment of your time, even if it feels like the world is never really going to be okay again.

January Blind Spot Review: Say Anything (1989)

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“What I really want to do with my life – what I want to do for a living – is I want to be with your daughter. I’m good at it.”
– Lloyd Dobler

SYNOPSIS: A noble underachiever and a beautiful valedictorian fall in love the summer before she goes off to college.- via IMDB

say-anything-car-kiss

GRADE 8Ah man, this was actually so sweet. I know the iconic image of John Cusack with a boombox, and I know it comes from this, but it was really cool to finally see what this is all about. I really appreciated the fact that Say Anything isn’t overly soppy or drowning under sexual innuendo. Instead it was pretty smart, witty, and had heart.

Obviously one cannot talk about this movie and overlook John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler. He was perfectly cast, and is adorable, lovable, sweet and fun, and I love what he does for Diane. I can totally see him having quite the following. Gosh, they way he was around her, and the way he moved the glass, and… and… there was so much about Lloyd that was awesome. That being said, Diane Court was also a great character. The whole movie pretty much revolves around Lloyd’s love for her, and the drama with her father, and she truly is essential to the story. Also, let’s not forget just how delightful her and Lloyd were together, you root for them every step of the way. It was great just to watch them chill together, to just be, and to see how their relationship develops.

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The relationship between Diane and her father was a good one. They were really open and honest with each other, and Diane could share a lot with him. He was sweet, supportive and yes, he was pushy, too, but he meant well. Unfortunately it seems that Diane was more open with her father than the other way around. Jim Court also respected his daughter, and that is something that scores some major points. Man, what a conflicted character. The movie is so eighties, but I really liked that.

The pacing for this is great. Really. Nothing is rushed, nothing dragged, it comes together really well in that sense. Also, you are captivated from the off. It comes across as honest, especially when you watch the interactions between the characters. The film manages to balance the comedy and the drama, so it isn’t forcing for laughs, but it isn’t wallowing in too much seriousness, either.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. It looked great, it sounded great, Lloyd was a sweetheart, and Skye and Cusack had lovely chemistry together. I can see why this was popular, and I am sure that this is something I will rewatch. It is filled with quick dialogue and heartwarming moments, totally worth a look see if you haven’t checked this out already.

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Rapid Review: Titanic (1997)

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titanic poster

“God himself could not sink this ship.”
– Cal Hockley

SYNOPSIS: A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind, but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic. – via IMDB

titanic jack and rose kiss

GRADE 8So I watched this on the way back from Italy, first time I have seen it in years. I still enjoyed it, and there were so many more aspects that I appreciated in the film seeing it now that I am older. The story of the Titanic always fascinated me, and even now, all these years later, it’s still immensely interesting. Now, back to the film, obviously I was on board with this because DiCaprio. I started a ridiculous obsession with him when this came out (I was still a rugrat when it hit, but come on, Jack Dawson). It was also where I became a fan of Kate Winslet, whatever she may think of her performance here. I loved this dramatic romantic film growing up, and it is still a good film. Watching it I realised that, as much as it was the love story between Jack and Rose, there was still the love story of the Titanic, so to speak (or love letter to the ship and her passengers, whichever way you wish to see it). So much time was spent showing us the destruction of the ship, the way she went down, fell apart, the whole katoot, and there were chunks of time that lapsed that did not feature Jack and Rose, and that was okay. Titanic features some solid performances, most notably (obviously) from DiCaprio and Winslet, but also Kathy Bates, Bernard Hill, and Victor Garber, among others. Titanic also spent a lot of time differentiating between the classes, which was not easy to watch, especially when it gets to locking second and third class passengers downstairs so that they could evacuate the first class passengers first, and how the first class passengers didn’t want to mix with lower classes. It made me sick to watch, and though times have changed, classism is still a major issue the world over. It is evident that Cameron was incredibly vested in his project, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching this again. Gosh, I will never forget the popularity of this film when it came out – and that is saying something, when a kid takes in how ridiculously huge a movie is. To this day, it is so immensely popular. Look, there are flaws with the film, for sure, but for the most part, it’s a pretty damn good movie, no matter how super hyped up it is. It is funny, sweet, sad, heart-wrenching, will make you angry, and will definitely keep you entertained from the off.

I will now, of course, take a moment, purely to appreciate DiCaprio for… all sorts of reasons.

titanic dicaprio drawingtitanic dicaprio smileagaintitanic dicaprio poker titanic dicaprio smile titanic dicaprio titanic jack hmmm titanic jack

Review: Dreaming of Antigone – Robin Bridges

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dreaming of antigone cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: “I can’t ever be the blazing star that Iris was. I’m still just a cold, dark satellite orbiting a star that went super nova.”

Andria’s twin sister, Iris, had adoring friends, a cool boyfriend, a wicked car, and a shelf full of soccer trophies. She had everything, in fact—including a drug problem. Six months after Iris’s death, Andria is trying to keep her grades, her friends, and her family from falling apart. But stargazing and books aren’t enough to ward off her guilt that she—the freak with the scary illness and all-black wardrobe—is still here when Iris isn’t. And then there’s Alex Hammond. The boy Andria blames for Iris’s death. The boy she’s unwittingly started swapping lines of poetry and secrets with, even as she tries to keep hating him. – via Goodreads

GRADE 5I picked this up because it was recommended to me if I like John Green. So I checked it out, expecting something more like his work, and got Dreaming of Antigone, which I would not say is the not quite the same. Definitely a young adult novel, that’s for sure, and had me thinking “teenagers” more often than not due to numerous different incidents. I think the primary one was the falling in love in like, two days, like. I am not saying that in a derogatory sense, just stating that this book distinctly highlights the thinking pattern of kids. That was just a bit crazy. Not because it has never been seen before in a movie/novel, but because of the history shared by Andria and Alex. It’s rough, supposedly, and if that were real life, it would have been super hectic. The book tries to touch on exceptionally heavy themes, like drug addiction, guilt, medical conditions, resentment, dealing with loss, suicide, etc. but just didn’t handle these themes with as much finesse as it hoped to, and it actually quite soft about the issues, if we are being honest. It felt like they had been glossed over, more than anything. The characters are flat and the story is very, very predictable, which is a bit of a disappointment. Andria is not a character that I liked at all, she just seemed too detached from everything that was going on around her, and the whole thing with Alex was just a bit weird because it all went down so fast. As I said, they have some heavy history that seems to just disappear in a heartbeat, or a few lines of poetry. This was the type of relationship that was a bit sketchy to start with, and the rush job did nothing to make it seem more okay. Despite these drawbacks, the novel is a quick read and flows well, but definitely is not the story it could have been. It didn’t pack an emotional punch, and does not stand out after the fact at all. It did not get me thinking about anything, either, which is what I would have expected from a book dealing with the issues that this one touched on. I don’t know, maybe I am just harder to please, what with not being sixteen anymore and all that.

Review: Playing With Fire – Tess Gerritsen

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tess gerritsen playing with fire cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: A beautiful violinist is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.

The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light. – via Goodreads

GRADE 8I was so stoked to get approval for this novel, I always enjoy reading something from Gerritsen. What I did not expect was how well this whole book was going to come together. It started innocuously enough, trundling along, nothing special or amazing. Then it got interesting when Julia plays this handwritten piece of music and her three year old daughter kills the family cat. I mean whoa, things escalated quickly. It has this horror/supernatural vibe going for it, and it works for the story. Out of nowhere, the story flips to a character named Lorenzo, and his part of the story is set in Venice in the 1940s. The story takes on a whole new feel altogether, and tells us about a young Italian Jew who is a phenomenal violinist, who is tasked to work with a young woman named Laura to compete in a musical competition. The tone is totally different in Lorenzo’s sections, and the book has another feel altogether when reading Julia’s sections. I was far more engrossed when reading about Lorenzo, his family, his Jewish roots, the Nazis occupying so many of the countries around them and moving in on the Jews, the steadfast Italian belief that they were safe, and would be fine. Having Italy as the backdrop for the Holocaust is something different, a lot of novels concentrate on other areas of that time in history. It gives a different outlook altogether. Reading about Lorenzo and Laura was wonderful – it was not painful, in your face and soppy, but there was such a beautiful relationship that blossomed between them, birthed by music. Being wrenched back into Julia’s present problems of her daughter going scary and insane and violent, it was always a heavy transition to make, but you slip back into it quickly enough. I was enthralled pretty much from the beginning – while Julia and her situation interested me, it was Lorenzo and Venice in the 1940s that enchanted me. The books flows nicely and puts out a beautiful story, interspersed with thrills when you see how the past and the present become woven together. The two differing times really have two totally different feelings, but for me the past side was far more influential, and most of this review refers to that section. The book is chilling, strange, intoxicating, thrilling, romantic. Granted, neither story really needs the other, and Lorenzo’s was definitely the more captivating story (I could have read just about him and his affairs), but the two stories ultimately do come together. The ending was not something I saw coming, and it worked so well. I enjoyed this book far more than I was expecting, and I cannot recommend it enough. It is Gerritsen’s first standalone novel in ages, and definitely her best work in quite some time.